Does Humor Explain Why Relationally Aggressive Adolescents are Popular?
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- Bowker, J.C. & Etkin, R.G. J Youth Adolescence (2014) 43: 1322. doi:10.1007/s10964-013-0031-5
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The association between relational aggression and popularity during early adolescence is well established. Yet, little is known about why, exactly, relationally aggressive young adolescents are able to achieve and maintain high popular status among peers. The present study investigated the mediating role of humor in the association between relational aggression and popularity during early adolescence. Also considered was whether the association between relational aggression and humor varies according to adolescents’ gender and their friends’ levels of relational aggression. Participants were 265 sixth-grade students (48 % female; 41 % racial/ethnic minority; Mage = 12.04 years) who completed peer nomination and friendship measures in their classrooms at two time points (Wave 1: February; Wave 2: May). The results indicated that Wave 1 relational aggression was related to Wave 1 and 2 popularity indirectly through Wave 1 humor, after accounting for the effects of Wave 1 physical aggression, ethnicity, and gender. Additional analyses showed that relational aggression and humor were related significantly only for boys and for young adolescents with highly relationally aggressive friends. The results support the need for further research on humor and aggression during early adolescence and other mechanisms by which relationally aggressive youth achieve high popular status.